I was going to let Jody tell the whole story of Seoul, but when it was clear that it was going to take two full episodes to tell the story, I decided to separate the Trials from the actual Olympics. In Jody's last paragraph he really let us have a feel for what it's like to be an Olympian. He was talking about a time before he'd ever been to Seoul, but remember, he was writing at a time after he'd had the thrill of actually being at an Olympics. Just which emotion is coming through in that paragraph neither he, nor we, will ever know. But as an Olympian myself, I can tell you that that paragraph gets it right.
For the actual story of the Olympics I'm going to do something different: I'm going to let the six Olympians tell their own stories.
I'll begin by simply noting that Fred did his usual magnificent job of inviting the world, getting them there (filling a big part of a jumbo jet), housing and feeding them, getting them tickets, and getting them back home. I was as much a recipient of his incredible generosity as all the rest of us, and I will again take this opportunity to thank him. Thank you, Fred. We all love you.
With both Jody and Hal in the marathon, I decided to let Hal tell that story and let Jody tell the story of the opening ceremony. As you will see, that definitely is best for both.
Jody's Story-The Opening Ceremony
The flight to Seoul, getting settled in the hotel, three practice marathons with Hal before things got started, running every morning with Hal, running every afternoon with Hal, sleeping with Jimmy in the hotel, sleeping with Charlie and Tim (for the first time in my life) the night before we moved into the Olympic Village, it's almost all a blur. The night with Tim and Charlie isn't a blur though. It's vividly etched into my memory. That morning Tim had sought me out at breakfast. "Jody, has Hal been running you pretty hard this week?"
"He sure has, Tim."
"Good. You'll be glad of it when you get into your race. I suppose he plans to keep up the pace right through the games."
"That's Hal. Our coach has given up on Hal, but he's trying to encourage me to take it a little easy. Hal and I are violating all of the conventional wisdom on how to prepare for a marathon."
"I know. Hal thinks you prepare for marathons by running marathons. Conventional wisdom says save yourself for the big race. So who do you follow?"
"Do you need to ask?"
"Hal got me this far, I'll stick with him."
"Good boy. But you're rooming with Jimmy, aren't you?"
"Yes, at the hotel, but not in the Village. Hal's with Sue now as he ought to be. Bernie, who's going to room with Jimmy in the Village, is with his parents now. You know, he's in this as much for his dad as himself."
"I know. I love him for it. Some would say that was the wrong reason, I think it's absolutely the right reason. Love will get you everywhere, and Bernie's doing this for the love of his father. I do love him for it. That leaves Murray and Willie rooming together in the Village, doesn't it?"
"Yep. Willie would rather room with you than anyone, but since you aren't available, any member of the Gang will do. But no one other than a Gang member would do for Willie. He's been adamant on that point."
"Good for Willie. Well, I have an invitation for you, Jody."
"What's that, Tim?"
"Charlie and I would like you to join us tonight."
"Do you really mean that, Tim?"
"Yes, Jody, I do. Charlie's note saying that Hal had agreed to share your legs of steel with him was a promise. Tonight is the night to keep it."
"Oh, my God. If tonight is anything like I think it's going to be, I'll still be high when I run my race!"
"Come by the room whenever you're ready for bed. I'm sure that Charlie and I'll be settled in by then."
I couldn't believe it. But, on reflection, I realized that this was completely typical of Tim and Charlie. If they were going to give a gift, in this case a gift of themselves, it would be perfectly timed. I ate dinner in the private dining room that Fred had arranged for the Gang and the extended group he was hosting (if you can think of them, they were there). Tim and Charlie were eating with Willie, his parents, Murray and Toppy. They were having a good time, engaged in animated conversation with quite a bit of laughter. I enjoyed simply watching, and contemplating the evening to come. After dinner they left the hotel for a walk, returned not long after and headed up to their room. I gave them about a ten minute head start and then I followed up to the same room.
I knocked on the door and was greeted by Charlie, who took one look and me, and called back over his shoulder to Tim, "Long Legs of Steel is here, shall I let him in?"
"Oh, do let him in."
"Come in Long Legs of Steel, and lets see what those legs look like."
Tim was sitting on the bed, and Charlie had flopped into a chair. It was obvious that they were waiting for me to take my pants off. Shoes and socks came first, then my pants. I wasn't sure about my underpants, so I just sort of stood there and waited for more instructions.
None came. Charlie just sat there, seemingly enthralled with my legs. Tim was watching Charlie as much as me. I just stood there, dumb. I flexed my leg muscles a little, and Charlie said, "That'll give me a hard-on. Keep it up."
Tim got off the bed and came over behind me. He reached around and unbuttoned my shirt and slipped it off; then he stripped my tee shirt off over my head. Then he slowly pulled down my underpants. Charlie, in the meantime, hadn't moved a muscle-unless you count his dick, which was showing in his pants. Then Charlie stood, undressed himself, came over to me, and walked me to the king size bed. I was guided to lay down at an angle across the whole bed, with my head at one of the corners at the foot end of the bed. Charlie lay beside me, head to foot. I thought that Hal had been pretty spectacular in his lovemaking with my legs, but Charlie easily put him to shame. Before he was done he'd been all over my legs with his hands, mouth and dick. He came as he kissed, for the umteenth time, the calf of my right, and stronger, leg. His cum was all over my chest. Tim came and gently scooped up the cum and rubbed it on my face and into my mouth. Charlie moved aside and Tim took my dick in his mouth and brought me to my own climax using his incredibly arousing tongue. He kissed Charlie, sharing my seed, and then Charlie motioned me to help him suck Tim-we took turns-and Tim came in my mouth. I kissed them both, sharing Tim.
Almost nothing had been said. There'd been no need to talk first. They knew that I'd been dreaming of this moment for a long time, and they evidently were as eager as I was. There was no hesitation, just great enthusiasm. Tim finally broke the silence by saying, "Thank you, Jody. Sex with you makes me feel like a teenager again. And my memories of my teen years, especially following my 18th birthday [he jabbed Charlie a little as he said that], are good ones. I'm glad to relive them."
I said, "Tim, age makes no difference. You're love for me has been incredibly important for years. It's led me to Seoul. It's changed my life. This culmination of that love is going to be the highlight of my trip to Korea."
Tim said, "Are you telling me you're dropping out of the Olympics?"
"Then the Opening Ceremony and your standing on the winner's podium will be the highlights of your trip."
"No, Tim. Love is more important than excitement; and tonight I've been loved by two wonderful friends. Thank you."
We slept, and began the morning with more conventional sex. We had breakfast in the room and had sex again. Tim and Charlie had a sexual stamina that exceeded what you might expect for two guys in their forties. Wow! Hal came by in the late morning, obviously knowing what we'd been up to the night before. He said, "Well, I hope you got all that out of your system, Jody. Today we move to the Olympic Village and you're mine. I don't have to share you at all. The only problem is, they'll never have a bed long enough for you!"
Hal was wrong. The Koreans proved to be wonderful hosts. When Hal and I checked in, the woman at the desk looked at the form in front of her and said, "You'll be in Wing A, Room 207. Your roommate is Hal Bruder. We have a special bed for you." It was going to be a good two weeks.
The next day was the opening ceremony. I've read Tim's story of the Opening Ceremony in Mexico City. None of us Gang members who followed Tim to the Olympics will ever be able to duplicate his thrill walking hand in hand with Charlie in the Opening Ceremony. But this year's ceremony was special in its own way. The press had made quite a bit of Hal's return to the Olympics after missing two: the Moscow boycott and Los Angeles. After medaling in three Olympics and missing two, Hal Bruder was back-twenty years after his first appearance, and highly favored to get another medal. And he was running as fast or faster now than twenty years before. It was an amazing performance, and it was rewarded by the USOC making him the flag bearer at the Opening Ceremony. This was an honor that Tim had turned down to march with Charlie, and which had slipped past all previous Gang members. Now the Gang would finally get to carry the American flag in an Olympic Ceremony. Charlie was sitting with Stanley (I told you that everyone you could think of was Fred's guest) and when they realized that Hal was the flag bearer, Stanley burst into tears. "Camp White Elk is carrying the flag," he murmured.
Flowers, flags, colors, speeches, the athletes oath, it's pretty much a blur. But it was a wonderful blur. My heart pounded throughout. I sat between Bernie and Jimmy and I could feel that they were every bit as excited as I was. Murray and Hal, just on the other side of Jimmy were equally enthralled. Oh, what a night it was. One that it'll be impossible for us to forget.
For the next two weeks Hal and I were virtually inseparable. We ate, slept, had sex, and ran our asses off, stopping only to watch others in our little group of six compete.
Willie's Story-Platform and Springboard Diving
Fourteen may be too young to go to the Olympics. I certainly wouldn't have written that in 1988, but it is 2009 as I sit at my computer and try to fulfill Charlie's request that I tell my story of the Seoul Olympics. From the perspective of a middle aged man, about to turn forty, my teenage adventure at the Olympics takes on a different perspective. The calendar didn't give me a choice. As my father pointed out, you only get one chance in high school, and mine was following my freshman year, age 14.
So why is 14 a little young? Because a young teenager doesn't really appreciate how extraordinary the opportunity is. It's too easy, at that age, to think that you actually earned a trip to the Olympics, that going is a measure of your worth, that all of those people that aren't Olympians aren't Olympians because they didn't try hard enough, didn't hunt for the right coach, or simply weren't interested in sports. Tim is partially right when he says that Olympians, at least the medal winners, are all freaks. Freaks of body, or temperament, or intelligence. They are at the extreme edges of the bell curve. But it's also true that Olympians, and I mean all of them, not just he medalists, are extremely lucky individuals. First, being a freak is a matter of luck. But you need to be born into an environment that provides the opportunity. How many kids born in the Sudan can even dream of playing high school basketball, much less Olympic basketball? For how many American kids, even the ones whose body and temperament might take them to Seoul, was going to the Olympics even the remotest possibility?
Oh, well. Off my high horse. I'll admit I was lucky, and I'll admit that I really didn't appreciate it at the time. I'm also not sure in what way I am, or was, the freak that Tim says you have to be to be a medalist. As I thought about that I asked Tim what his answer would be.
"Willie, there's no question that you have the body of a diver: beautiful, long, lithe, well-coordinated. You also had, at age 14, the maturity of a full adult, able to make the decisions necessary to get ahead. Who but an incredibly mature teen would've seen that the move to Iron River was the path to the Olympics? And you had the dedication to practice, practice, practice. How are you a freak? Simple. Combining all three of those in one person is virtually a statistical impossibility. But here you stand, and there you stood on the diving board and platform in Seoul."
I guess Tim's right. Oh, Hell, Tim's right about just about everything. Sometimes he so right he's a bore! (Did I really write that? Sorry, Tim. But I'm not going to take it back.)
We checked into the Village in the afternoon of Friday, September 17, 1988. The Opening Ceremony would be the next day. Murray would be my roommate; as nice people that Jimmy and Bernie were, I really wanted, actually needed, to have a Gang member as a roommate. I think that Murray felt the same. Jody and Hal weren't going to be separated, so that didn't give Murray and me much choice. But I'd gotten to know Murray over the last few years, and I liked him. I was sure that we'd hit if off.
I suppose that we both thought about sex a little that first night, but nothing was said. I did take the opportunity to "check him out." He had a beautiful body, but that was true of virtually all Olympians, with the exception of the boxing and wrestling heavyweights and the weight lifters. He also had a very nice looking dick, circumcised about like mine. His balls were large, and hung pretty low. His pubic hair was as blond as the hair on the top of his head, and I'm a fool for blonds-girls or boys. He didn't hide the fact that he was as interested in my circumcised dick as I was in his.
The room had two single beds, and Murray climbed into one naked. I guessed that the next move was mine, and I made it. I climbed in with Murray, equally naked, and lay on my back next to him. He lay there a while and said, "No sex tonight, not even hugging. Tomorrow we'll talk."
I said, "OK," and rolled over with my back to him. It took a while, but I went to sleep in that position and hadn't moved very much when I awoke the next morning.
Murray was lying there awake; it looked like he'd been waiting for me to regain consciousness. He said, "We need to talk."
"Yes, we do."
"Willie, did Tim talk to you about sex with me?"
"Yes, what about you?"
"Charlie talked to me. I think they talked and agreed who would talk to whom. From what Charlie said he was speaking for your dad as well."
"That doesn't surprise me."
"The message to me was that I was the adult and you were not. Sex was forbidden."
"My message was that you were the adult, sex was forbidden, and it was absolutely unacceptable for me to tease or tempt you."
"I think we both flunked that test last night."
"But nothing happened that shouldn't have."
"And it's not going to. I'm not going to cross the line," Murray insisted.
"We need to talk about the line. Just where is it?"
"When Charlie slept with Tim before he was 18 he refused to touch Tim below the belly button."
"Yeah, but he let Tim wiggle up to him, and Tim could feel Charlie's boner."
"Do you want that kind of relationship with me, Willie?"
"Indeed I do. But there's something very different between our situation and Charlie and Tim's."
"Theirs only went two nights in a row. The first time Charlie went home after the two nights, and I know they both jacked off the first chance they got. The second time was just before Tim's 18th birthday, and he was awakened at midnight for their first sex. We're going to be together for more than two weeks. I'm not going to go without an orgasm for two weeks."
"What're you suggesting?"
"Well, we can wait until the other is out of the room, say in the bathroom, and have a quick jerk to take care of our needs. Or we can get with someone else during the day. In my case that'd only be Hardie, the boy I live with in Michigan. You have the whole Gang available."
"I guess that's our future."
"No, we can jerk off on the bed beside each other. No touching; watching is permitted."
"Wouldn't that be crossing the line?"
"Tim and Charlie are both enthusiastic line pushers. I think it's only pushing, not crossing. Crossing would be touching you, not watching you."
"We could ask Tim or Charlie what they think."
"No! You're an adult, Murray. I'm making a suggestion. I don't think it's crossing the line, though I'll admit it's damn close. It's your decision whether it'd be crossing the line. We'll tell Tim, Charlie, my parents, Toppy, but after the Games. We make up our minds now, and we don't get other people involved until after the games. We don't want a discussion that might impact on anybody's game performance."
"And we sleep spooned together in either case, right?"
With that he threw back the covers to reveal a very hard dick, with precum oozing. The absent covers revealed that my dick was already in my hand, ready to go. I said, "Race you." I won, but not by much. Teen hormones!
I went into the bathroom and got a warm, wet washcloth. I came over to Murray and took the cloth and cleaned him up. "I didn't touch, and washing isn't sex."
Murray said, "I'm not going that far; clean yourself up."
That became our morning routine. Nights we simply didn't clean up; and Murray got my cum all over his ass, and I'd find some of his cum above his belly button, and would spread that around his chest and face. I tasted it as well. Sometimes Murray would reach down to his ass and gather some of mine to taste. As I think back upon it, we really were raunchy. I'm not sure how we could possibly have thought that we weren't crossing the line of having sex with one another, but that was our position, and we stuck to it.
I'll jump ahead and tell you of Tim and Charlie's reaction. Just after we got back to North Dakota we visited Charlie in his office. We suggested that Tim might join us, and he did. I told the whole story, sparing no details. I think that Murray-the alleged adult-was really worried about what Tim and Charlie would think.
They both burst out laughing. Tim finally said, "Gosh, I wish I could've gotten Charlie to draw that kind of line."
Charlie said, "I wish I'd thought of it."
Tim continued, "Seriously, I'm not the least upset. The important thing is that you had a line that you didn't cross. Without a line, one thing leads to another, and soon you've gone further than either of you could justify. That's when guilt sets in, and relationships are ruined. But I'd suggest that the 16 days you were together in the Village were an exceptional time. I hope that each of you will stay on your own side of the age of majority now that you're back in North Dakota."
"Have you guys told this story to Billy, Sara and Toppy?"
"Not yet. We wanted to start with you two. But we will." And we did, and got about the same reaction. Murray told me that Toppy was jealous, but realized that he'd have to wait till I was 18 for his turn.
Well, Tim argues for love and support as the key to success in athletics. I had my love and support. Support from the entire Gang and the about fifty additional hangers on that Fred had dragged along; love from Murray. It was an unbeatable combination-until you factored in Greg Louganis.
Greg remembered me from the Trials and was equally kind to me in Seoul. We shared a couple of meals together in the athletes dining room in the Olympic Village, and he was delighted to have a chance to meet Dad and Uncle Tim. It was obvious to me that Greg was gay, but we never discussed it. Even with Tim as an example, he couldn't budge himself out of the closet-at least not publicly. Certainly his close friends were aware of his sexuality.
Diving began on Monday with the springboard preliminaries. We each had eleven dives to do. Again I was belittled for the difficulty of the dives I'd chosen-by almost everyone who talked to me except Greg, whose dives were actually slightly less difficult in the aggregate than mine. He didn't seem worried and there was no reason for him to have been. He wished me luck, and off we went.
Greg Louganis was beauty personified. Tall, dark, muscled-an almost perfect body. And diving probably shows off the body better, and more completely, than any other sport. Watching Greg was an inspiration. My scores were almost as good as his, but never quite as good. But I seemed to have a firm hold on the number two position. Then we came to the ninth preliminary dive. Greg's was a reverse 2½-somersault pike but he didn't get enough separation from the board. He hit his head and tumbled into the water, bleeding. He was conscious and managed to pull himself out. A doctor was immediately as his side and he received temporary sutures. He got almost no score on that dive (though incredibly one judge scored it 1.5-presumably on the basis of its form up to the crash), and almost everybody assumed that he was out of the competition. For a brief moment I thought that I might've gotten a gold in absolutely the wrong way. I remember that I had time to think about what I would do if I got the gold because of this accident.
Incredibly, after about a half hour delay forced by the medical attention being given at the side of the pool, the competition resumed, and Greg Louganis went on to complete his 10th and 11th dives-at a level that would eventually get him the gold medal. It was the most incredible performance I ever hope to witness. A comeback beyond all comebacks. I consider myself absolutely privileged to have stood on the podium with Greg and gotten my silver to his gold. Well, I guess that pretty much gives away the events of the next day. By the next day Greg had had five sutures at the hospital and was back in full form.
All of the divers who'd watched his accident did have it impressed upon them that they were engaged in a possibly dangerous sport. But, we were all of an age that thought we were immortal, and I don't think the accident changed that much.
Since I'm writing this in 2009, I'll mention that years later Greg revealed in an interview that he was HIV positive and that he had been at the time of the accident. There was all kinds of silly to do over how he'd endangered other people, particularly the doctor, by not telling of his HIV status. The fact that he was almost killed didn't seem to matter much. Nor did the fact that transmission from his head wound would've been so incredibly unlikely as to be considered impossible, even to the doctor. As has been pointed out, and usually ignored, wounds bleed out, and taking in blood from another person is almost impossible, even if you have a cut yourself. Fluid transmission of HIV and other blood based diseases is caused in situations where fluids are taken into the body, as in intercourse and using infected needles which are actually pushed into the body. Greg got, and continues to get, a bum rap-he didn't endanger anybody with his HIV. We were in much more danger of hitting our heads on the diving board!
I stood on the podium, and though it was played for Greg, not me, I listened to the Star Spangled Banner being played and almost cried. What a thrill. And though I've had the thrill again, there's nothing like the first time. I still had the medal around my neck as Murray and I jacked off that evening!
The platform diving was Monday and Tuesday of the second week. It went well, though I only got a bronze. Incredibly the silver went to Ni Xiong a fourteen year old from China. Can you believe two fourteen year olds getting medals in the same event? Well, we did. I got to stand again next to Greg and listen to the national anthem. I have to agree with Tim, the color of the medal isn't important-at least not between silver and bronze. One means as much to me as the other. I couldn't help but dream, however, that in four years the Star Spangled Banner might be played for me! I know that I shouldn't have been thinking things like that, but, Hell, I was only 14. I could dream the dreams of a teenager, because I was, by God, a teenager.
Bernie's Story-The Butterfly
Charlie let me read what had gone before, so I know that you know the story of my dad and his interrupted journey to the Olympics. I've often thought that "doing it for Dad" was a poor reason to try to go to the Olympics. Most of the people that I've told the story to have agreed. I get things like, "Surely you're doing if for yourself?" and "You'll never make it if that's your only reason." Then I met Tim, who thought that doing it for Dad was the most wonderful reason in the world. I loved my dad, why wouldn't that love sustain me on my journey to Seoul? Well, I have to tell you, Tim was right. (Is Tim being right a theme of this episode?) My father sometimes felt guilty for laying the Olympic burden on me, but I've always assured him that it wasn't a burden, it was a privilege. I don't think he ever believed that until he met Tim again after so many years. Tim hugged him and told him, "Karl, it's so good to see you again after so long. Bernie tells me that you're his inspiration to go to the Olympics. I can't think of a better reason, nor one that's more likely to actually get him there."
Dad had simply cried. He finally said, "That meet with Indiana was the high point of my swimming career. I know you were responsible for it, Tim. After all these years, I still can't thank you enough. Without that meet, I would never have dreamed of the Olympics and neither would Bernie. Thank you."
Fred had me and my folks booked into a big double room at the hotel, and I stayed with them until I headed off to the Olympic Village where I was rooming with Jimmy. The very first afternoon Jimmy very quietly told me he was gay. "Bernie, I don't want to be anyone's roommate under false pretenses. I'm gay, and if we're going to spend the next 16 days together, I think you should know it."
I told him, "OK, I know it. If I could accept the hospitality of Fred and his partner, Marty; if I could be a part of this group led by Tim and his partner, Charlie, I can't possibly be upset by your being gay. But I do thank you for telling me. And, I hope we can talk a little about it over the next couple of weeks. I'll admit, I'm curious."
OK, I've read the story. I know you expect me to tell you that, at the very least, Jimmy and I "experimented" a little. Well, we didn't. I had no interest and Jimmy never indicated that he did. I was well aware that he enjoyed looking at my body, and I didn't mind. If you're going to be a competitive swimmer you have to get used to showing off your body, because Speedos hide virtually nothing. His archer's body was different than a swimmer, and I enjoyed looking at his big biceps. Well, I liked looking at his dick, too. But I had no urge to touch it or do anything else with it.
We did have some interesting conversations about homosexuality. I'd had little contact with openly gay persons, so it was interesting to talk to Jimmy. He seemed fairly relaxed about being gay, though he told me that he'd had some pretty traumatic times as a gay teen.
My competition began on Tuesday of the first week with the 100 meter butterfly prelims. I easily qualified for the final, scheduled for the next day. Matt Biondi was favored to win, and the rest of the race was pretty open. I'll have to admit that I had hopes of a silver medal. It didn't quite turn out that way, or for that matter in the way anybody expected. As he told it afterwards, Matt made a crucial mistake as he approached the boards in the final leg of the race. His strokes were slightly out of synch with the length of the pool and he had to choose between four shorter strokes or three longer ones. He choose the three, and was slightly slowing as he hit the board. In that instant, Anthony Nesty of Suriname passed him and finished an astonishing 1/100 of a second ahead of Matt at 53 seconds even, a new Olympic record. Matt's time was 53.01. I was a full half second behind Matt, and hardly aware that Nesty was in the race. At first I thought I was second, but quickly realized that Matt was second, making me third.
But I had a medal. I couldn't wait for the victory ceremony to end so that I could hang it around my father's neck. The Suriname anthem finally ended, we all shook hands, and I headed for my parents in the stands. I kissed my mom, put the medal ribbon around Dad's neck, and hugged him. The tears in my eyes made everything a blur, but it was a wonderful moment. He has the medal on the wall in his living room. I think he's more proud of it than he would've been of one of his own. I do wish he'd had the chance.
The 200 meter butterfly was scheduled for Saturday; prelims in the morning, finals in the afternoon. No Matt Biondi to contend with. Nesty was known to be weaker at the longer distance, whereas I usually did better at the longer distance. I hadn't been sufficiently exposed to Tim to be able to not worry about the color of a medal. I really wanted a gold. I think I may have wanted it too much; I know that that's what Tim would say. In any case, I knew I had a shot at the gold, and I was ready.
So were Michael Gross of Germany and Benny Nielson of Denmark. They took gold and silver with times of 2:00.26 (an Olympic record) and 2:00.32, respectively. My 2:00.34 was good enough for another bronze.
My dad realized my disappointment at getting the bronze and really reamed me out. To him, third best in the world was an incredibly high honor, and he refused to listen to any whining about not getting the gold. To him, getting a medal was just plain fabulous. I've since heard Tim express exactly the same sentiments, and I guess they're right. I was still a disappointed bronze medal winner!
But my time would come, thanks to Matt Biondi. The next day was the 400 meter medley relay and I would be swimming the butterfly leg and Matt the freestyle. The backstroke and breaststroke legs went well, but we were in third place as I entered the water for the butterfly leg. You can't believe the combined thrill and tension I felt, competing this time with Matt Biondi. Could I measure up as an Olympian? In a relay, not only is your own fate dependent on your performance, but the fate of three other people whose dreams of an Olympic medal depend on you. I did well, and I left the water having brought the USA team to second place, and closing. Matt's timing going into the water was perfect. He was springing from the starting platform before I touched the boards, but his knees hadn't straighten fully and his feet didn't leave the ground until I'd touched. Matt was like a bullet, not only bringing home USA gold but a world record, 3:36:93. I, and three others, had our Olympic gold! What a feeling.
My dad wouldn't accept my second bronze, nor the gold medal. He told me, "Bernie, the first one was for me. I love you for it; I'll always treasure it. But the following ones, and especially the gold, they're for you. You earned them all by yourself. Wear them proudly." I always have.
Author's note: In fact, Matt Biondi swam the butterfly leg, not the freestyle leg, in the USA world record setting 4X100 medley relay.
OK, I won't bore you with more details of rooming with Bernie; he's pretty much told the whole story. Except to say that if he'd wanted a sexual relationship, with a body like that he damn well would've gotten it!
We did talk quite a bit about Charlie, Tim, Fred and the others who made up the unique cast of characters who'd come with us to Korea. Bernie hadn't been particularly surprised at the group that went with him to the Swimming and Diving Trials; after all, Willie was competing at the same Trials. We knew of Willie's connection to Charlie and Tim whom he consistently called Uncle Charlie and Uncle Tim. But I'd been caught completely by surprise when it took a Greyhound Scenicruiser plus a big sedan to get the entire group to watch me at the Trials in St. Louis. All I'd ever done was talk to Charlie about archery and his Olympic experiences, and the same with Tim. But without my even knowing it, I'd been adopted. And not only by Charlie and Tim, but along came Fred Milson organizing the trip to St. Louis, with meals and lodging already organized-and no discussion allowed about who was paying the bill. Remarkably, I thought, nobody in the group seemed even slightly surprised that their way was being paid by Fred; though I noticed that everybody was sure to thank him.
The person I knew best, of course, was Mike Federer, the president of our bow club. He wasn't much help. "Jimmy, I don't know Charlie very well. I know he set a pretty good Olympic record and medaled twice. Since then he's remained a member of the club, supported us, helped out when we had something specific we'd ask him to do. But he's hung up his bow, and I don't think I've ever seen him shoot. I know he's gay and that Tim's his partner. The rest of the bunch around them seem to be good friends but I really can't tell you much more. I was as surprised by the invitation to St. Louis as you, and as far as this trip to Korea, I'm at a total loss. But Fred, and Charlie, made it clear that for me and my wife not to accept the invitation would be unthinkable. If nothing else, I was to accept it to be there for you. Hell, Jimmy, you don't need me here in Korea. But that certainly wasn't Charlie's take on things."
I replied, "Tim seems to have a mantra, 'Love and Support.' It seems to have worked for him. And six out of six of us survived our Trials and came out Olympians. Your being here is part of their concept of love and support."
"I know. And I'm glad to be here, Jimmy. And any way that I can help you, you know I will."
"Tim would say, and he's already said it to me, that just your being here was an expression of love and support. So, what do you make of this group? I think there are about a hundred of us."
"Jimmy, you've been practicing, and living in the Village. I've been around the group much more here in the hotel. They divide into two groups: The core group calls itself "The Gang." It consists of Charlie and Tim, and six others who were campers at a camp in Michigan. Charlie was their counselor and Tim, Franklin, Jim, Andy, Tom, Ronnie, and Hal were his campers. I got that out of Franklin as we were talking at lunch one day. Their wives and partners, close friends, parents, and a few others make up what they call the Gang today. I gather it's more than fifty. The rest are like you: North Dakota Olympians who have been adopted by the Gang, along with your friends, coaches, families, and assorted hangers on. Fred seems to work on the premise of 'The more the merrier.' Money doesn't seem to factor into his thinking at all."
"I guess Fred's Sports is pretty successful."
"My God, is that who Fred is? I hadn't made the connection. He never talks about himself very much."
"Yeah, he owns Fred's Sports. He and Andy run it."
"I'm damned. I've seldom seen a group that gets along so well together. And the age range is vast. I haven't had much time with the parents of the original group of campers, but they're all here. They seem to fit into the group as well as the young kids. Murray's group, including his partner, Toppy, seem to be the youngest-except of course for Willie and the group of small kids who seem to follow Franklin around like the Pied Piper."
"Franklin seems to love it. He's like their big Teddy Bear."
As we talked one evening I shared what I knew about the Gang with Bernie. He'd had some long conversations with Willie, and he was able to confirm many of Mike's conclusions. Willie, ever the horny teenager, had filled him in on some of the sexual aspects of the Gang. Willie had enough sense to not provide details or names, but he did assure Bernie that the group was neither chaste nor into monogamy. He had indicated his frustration at the Gang's insistence on no sex with boys or girls under 18. Willie hadn't, and it's a damn good thing he hadn't, gone into details of his nights with Charlie, Tim, or Murray. Those stories were new to me as I read the earlier episodes in this story.
Bernie asked, "It must be nice, as a gay man, to be in a group that simply takes gayness as the natural order of things."
"Oh, Bernie, you're so right. And a good many of them are gay."
"According to Willie, Tim believes that there's least a little gay and a little straight in everybody, and the Gang goes out of their way to prove it."
"I haven't gotten any invitations."
"Neither have I. So, if this is such a great group of people, how does one get more involved with them?"
"I guess just be good friends. I have an idea. What if, when we get back, the two of us gave a thank you dinner for Fred, Charlie, Tim, and a few of the others?"
"Where would we give it? Certainly not in my dorm room. You have an apartment, right? Is it big enough?"
"Not really, and I doubt it's clean enough. We'd have to go to a restaurant, either just at a big table in a corner, or maybe try to get a private room."
"I like the idea. Let's think about it and be ready to issue the invitations as soon as we get home and find a place to invite people to. Right now, however, I have to worry about my shooting in the Olympics. You've got your medals, and a damn good job it was, too."
"I'll be there rooting for you tomorrow, as will a lot of other people from North Dakota! However, Willie'll be in the finals for platform diving tomorrow afternoon, so I expect the bigger crowd will go there."
"They damn well should; there really isn't much question that diving is a much more interesting sport to watch than archery."
"You'd get an audience if you'd use apples instead of bull's eyes and balance them on someone's head."
"Are you volunteering?"
"I think I'll watch the diving."
"Thought so. I'd go there if I had the chance."
The first two days, Tuesday and Wednesday of the second week of the Games, we shot a standard FITA Round, and I scored a 1294 out of a possible 1440 in that round, coming in third behind a Russian and a Korean at 1303 and 1304 respectively. In previous Olympics the top scorers would've fired another FITA round, added them, and ranked the archers. This year the top 24 advanced to the next round, which they called the 1/8 finals. All subsequent rounds would consist of 36 arrows, 9 at each of the four FITA distances. When the 8 finalists finished, each would've completed a second FITA Round, but the scores were never officially added to be compared to prior years. I didn't do too well in the 1/8 finals, scoring a 313 (out of a possible 360) putting me in 13th place. But the ranking didn't matter; all that mattered was that I was one of the top 18 that advanced to the quarter finals on Thursday afternoon.
I improved in the quarter finals, scoring a 326, just three points behind the lead. Three out of the four leaders were American. We all dreamed of an American sweep. Dreams, however, are one thing; reality is quite another.
The semifinals, consisting of the top 12 archers was the morning of Saturday, October 1, the day before the Marathon and the Closing Ceremony. There were twelve of us, including three Americans and three Koreans. Chun In-Soo, a Korean, and I tied at 334. There's no tie break at this stage, unless it affects who advances to the next round. However, I just looked up in an American reference and it showed me in first place and Chun in second. My guess is that if Chun looked it up in a Korean reference he'd be in first place and I'd be in second. Officially we were tied. Period. We moved to the finals. Sadly, Darrell Pace, who'd been the gold medalist in 1984 was ninth and didn't advance to the finals.
The final round was Saturday afternoon. Nobody else from North Dakota was competing that day. Somewhere Fred had gotten tickets for everybody, and I had a support section that almost made me cry. It was wonderful. You can believe everything Tim ever tells you about love and support in sports. I carefully called it a support section, not a cheering section. Cheering isn't part of the archery spectator ethos. Since more than one person is firing at once, you can't cheer one person's shot without interfering with someone else's. I do truly think, however, that I could feel the silent cheers. In any case I fired my best 36 arrow round of the meet, a 338. It put me two points ahead of Park Sung-Soo of Korea and three points ahead of the Russian bronze medalist. My unofficial score for the FITA double round was 2605. In contrast, Darrell Pace had set the Olympic record in 1984 with 2616.
When comparing the present system of shrinking the field over the course of five rounds with the former method of simply taking the total for the double round, it's worth noting that the highest (unofficial) score in the FITA double round that was shot was that of Park Sung-Soo of Korea, with a score of 2614, two points shy of the Olympic record. Sung-Soo came in fourth, because he didn't do as well in the final round. Under the old way, in which the FITA double round total picked the winner, Sung-Soo would've had the gold, and I would've had the silver. I'm proud of and pleased with my gold medal, but I think the old way of scoring was fairer, and I would've been pleased to take home a silver.
But standing on the podium listening to the Star Spangled Banner, as opposed to the Korean National Anthem, was an experience of a lifetime. In this group from North Dakota there were six gold medalists. (Count them: Tim, Charlie, Hal, Billy, Paul, and Marty.) I'd talked to each of them, and all had described their feelings standing on the podium listening to the anthem. But you can never understand it until you've felt it. Amazing. And all six of those gold medalists were there in the stands, ready to congratulate me as the ceremony came to a close. Oh, Lord, thank you.
The next event was sort of an anticlimax. The individual scores were also combined to create a team competition. It was simply a matter of adding up the scores and the United States came in second behind Korea. I got a second medal, silver, for exactly the same shooting. Well, if they wanted to give it to me, I'd be glad to take it. But as far as I was concerned, the individual competition was what really counted.
I failed to qualify in the Olympic Trials four years ago. This time around I'd been determined to make the team. I worked my butt off for four years and it paid off. I was undefeated at the Trials and felt I had a good chance of winning a medal in Seoul. I need to recognize here the fact that all of the Circle supported me these four years. They wouldn't even let me get a part-time job to be able to put some money into the common account. I was told flat out that my job was to get to the Olympics and nothing was to interfere with that. So, I really made it my job, and it paid off.
Now I was in Seoul, impatiently waiting my turn, as the Free Style Wrestling Prelims weren't until Wednesday and Thursday of the second week. The finals would be on Friday. A lifetime of dreams and four years of incredibly hard work, and it all would be settled in three short days.
I was rooming with Willie, and I'd watched him earn his second medal the day before my first matches. As roommates, we'd spent quite a bit of time together, especially in the five days between his springboard diving and his platform diving. Willie proved to be quite a young man. I still can't get over how that fourteen-year-old could be so cool as he approached his events. It should've been an almost crushing weight on a young teenager, anticipating competing with the best men in the world, most of which were quite a few years old than he. He seemed to have the ability to view his upcoming dives with the same detachment he'd bring to a practice dive in Iron River. If he was as cool on the inside as he appeared to be on the outside, he's incredible.
As his roommate, I think I knew as well as anyone that he was, in fact, as cool on the inside as the outside. He slept well. Ate well. Related well to me, and everyone. He was one of the few divers who seemed to be able to respect Greg Louganis without seeming to be in awe of him. And he and Greg got along well together. Willie laughed at the divers who seemed to think they had a chance of beating Greg; he had no illusions that he was going to. It didn't bother him.
He told me, "Murray, if all goes well, I'll get a medal or two at this Olympics. Then, if I'm real lucky and stay healthy, and I work my butt off as hard as you have the last four years, then the next Olympics will be my time." I'll be absolutely amazed if that isn't the truth.
Willie's already told you about our sexual adventures, this side of the "line" of having sex. Wait a minute, we didn't have sex-that's our story and we're both sticking to it. We jacked off. We cleaned each other up. We massaged each other above the belly button and down the back. I think I may have even fiddled with his asshole a little. But we didn't touch the genitals at all. OK, I wouldn't want some do-gooder social worker to have to pass judgement. But the Gang has passed judgement, and we're clean!
The night before my first match Willie sat down in a chair, facing the bed, and said, "OK, Murray. Take off your clothes. Arouse me as much as you can. Jack off. Then I'll slip in behind you and let you sleep." That's what I did. I'd contemplated spending the night with Toppy, and he may have been a little disappointed. But I thought it was better to stay in the Village and let what thrills I got come from another Olympian. I decided that Willie as audience was enough.
What can I say? Love and support from the Gang, and especially from Willie, is an unbeatable formula. And I was unbeaten through the prelims. I made it to the finals. Toppy and I had dinner alone at a nice restaurant after the second day of prelims. We'd had lunch together, alone or in a group, almost every day in Korea. But this dinner was special. We found a restaurant that could give us good steaks that looked like they might've come from a midwestern feedlot. They were big, juicy, and very rare. My weight stood at about the middle of my class, so I didn't have to worry about what a single meal the night before would do for me at finals weigh-in. We went back to Toppy's hotel room and we fucked and were fucked. It was wonderful. I was ready to take on the world, or at least the Russian, Japanese, and Korean who seemed to be my greatest threats the next day.
That night I warned Willie that I might be a little slower to produce cum because of my early evening adventures with Toppy. Willie said, "OK, I'll race you. I should be able to win." He sat in his chair and jerked his hand while he watched me do the same thing on the bed. He did come first, and he scooped up his cum with his hand and walked over and rubbed in on my face and chest. "That should inspire you."
It did, and I exploded, hitting his elbow which he hadn't yet taken away from my face. I was ready for the next day.
I made it to the final match, which would settle the question of silver and gold. My opponent was a Russian, whose body looked like it was made of a combination of muscle and steel. He was blond, hairy, and tough. It made me weak-kneed just to look at him. By weight we were almost evenly matched, and he was an inch shorter than me. Of course, at one inch shorter he could have just a little more muscle to each inch of height.
Sergei followed the Jim style of wrestling: Direct, come straight at you, may the best man win. He was fearless, and it was clear that if I had any hope I was going to have to meet him on his own terms. We clashed like bull elephants. It was a high scoring match, brutal in nature. But fair, not once did I feel he'd executed any improper move, and I certainly hope that I didn't. We weren't called by the referee. At the end of the match Sergei had 16 points and I had 15. What a struggle. It was Sergei's closest match of the Games; I could be proud of my silver medal. And everyone knew that Sergei had proved himself worthy of the gold. We didn't have a common language, but the bear hugs we gave each other just before we mounted the podia told the story: total mutual respect. Would that the relations between our two countries could be on the same basis!
I was proud to stand on my podium and hear the Russian National Anthem played, but in my heart I was disappointed that it wasn't the Star Spangled Banner.
I'd earned the 6th medal of the North Dakotans. It was the first medal actually won by one of the official members of the Gang. I couldn't help but be proud and content. I was truly loved and supported.
Hal's Story-The Marathon
I had to jog my own memory to write this. It'd been twenty years since my first Olympics. I'd medaled in three: Mexico, Munich, Montreal. Gold, silver, silver. The press corps and the television producers were making a big deal of my return to the Olympics after a twelve year absence-missing the Moscow and Los Angeles Games. At age 41 I was one of the old men of the Olympics. The race that Jody and I had run in the Trials showed that I was a serious competitor, old man or not. Jody was getting attention too, especially with the incredibly close finish that he'd had for third place in the Trials.
I don't need to tell you much about my training regimen. Jody and I ran together, and ran a full marathon at least every third day. The track and field coaching staff, almost all new since the last Olympics, were upset with our running that many marathons-it flew in the face of accepted wisdom regarding training for a marathon. I didn't give a damn, and Jody was determined to stick with me. We ran.
The door had been opened for a sexual relationship between Jody and me. I'd discussed it with Sue and she insisted that Jody and I should explore that aspect of our relationship to the fullest while we were living in the Olympic Village. I knew that Sue wouldn't be alone any night in the hotel with the Gang. I know that many of the readers of this story are going to be a little upset that we could have that kind of a sexual relationship for those two weeks. All I can say is that both Sue and I were very content with our arrangement.
Jody was too! We had quite an adventure. At the end of the first week, as we lay in bed on Sunday night, Jody asked, "Hal, just before the Trials you fucked me, and it was wonderful. Will you let me fuck you?"
"Yes, Jody. There are no closed doors between us. But let's save that for Friday night, our last sex before the race."
"Oh, neat," was his answer.
"In the meantime, Jody, I want to see if I can get that long, skinny sausage of yours down my throat." I'm not sure but what Jody is longer than Phil, but if he isn't he seems to be, because his dick is quite slender. It makes it easier to slide down the throat, but it still goes a long way. I reached my objective, Jody fired while I had him fully inside, and I hardly tasted his cum. I wouldn't say that that was the most fun that I've had with oral sex, but it was an interesting challenge.
Jody thought the whole thing was hilarious. After he'd pulled out he looked at me and said, "You're no challenge. Let me just watch you jack off."
That wasn't something that I'd done very often with an audience, and I learned that it can be quite sexy. But nothing we did or tried compared with Friday night when Jody's long thing slid up my ass, further than anything I'd ever experienced.
My main challenge for the two weeks leading up to the race wasn't sexual. Rather it was to persuade Jody that he had to run his own race on Sunday. I decided that I needed to enlist the help of Herb, Charlie, and Tim. We met at the hotel where the Gang was staying on the Sunday noon at the end of the first week. The five of us found a secluded place where we could talk. I started.
"Jody, we need to talk about our racing strategy for the marathon."
"I just assumed that we'd do it the same way we always had. You're the pacer, I'll follow you. Lead on."
"Jody, I think that you can run a faster race than I can. You can't just follow me."
"Bull. At the Trial you pulled ahead and I just barely made it to third place. What makes you think I can run a faster race than you."
"You're maximum effort came too close to the end of the race for it to get maximum effect. You have to admit it, Jody, for the last half dozen miles I was holding you back."
Charlie said, "It's not nuts, Jody."
Herb said, "Jody, I've been watching racers for a long time. I know that you're capable of a little more than you've been delivering, and we both know it's because you won't even think about passing Hal."
"I don't like where this conversation is headed."
I said, "Neither do I, Jody. Because if you won't run your very best, and I'm the reason, then I'm going to have to drop out of the race."
"Don't try that shit with me, Hal. We have a deal. We're in this together. If you don't race, neither do I."
"OK, Jody. That wasn't fair of me. But you have to be fair to yourself."
Jody said, "I notice that Tim's here and Billy isn't. It seems to me that he's the example I should be holding up."
Tim said, "Billie's never admitted to what you're suggesting, but a lot of people have speculated that it's true. But I don't think he makes a good model. If what you're suggesting is actually true, it must follow that I have a very tarnished gold medal on my wall."
Jody said, "Hell, Tim. I've read the story. That medal isn't even on your wall, it's on Billy's, next to your swim suit."
Herb said, "OK, Jody, point for you. But think about this. Tim retired from diving because he knew that Billy'd never reach his potential competing against Tim. They never competed again after the Mexico Olympics. Was that fair to Tim?"
"I never thought of it that way."
Hal said, "Jody, you're 18 years old, in the prime of your athletic life. I'm 41 and at the end of mine. Being beaten by you in the marathon isn't unexpected. It's no shame. It's not a sad end to my career. After all, my last two medals were silver. I've been beaten. I will be again. Besides, everyone, especially the press corps and TV guys, know that you're my protege, that your success is my success."
Jody said, "Two things. First, you said my beating you wouldn't be unexpected. That's right. But the Gang, and now I'm talking about the original eight, do the unexpected. Think about that. And think about how I'd feel if I got a bronze medal and you didn't medal. I could stand gold to your silver, or silver to your bronze. If I walk away from these games with a medal and you don't, I'll be devastated. It's not going to happen. Better that neither of us get medals than me get one and you not. And that's not negotiable."
Tim said, "OK, Jody. Then you run the race of your life, and by God, don't be third. You assume that Hal's right behind you, and make damn sure you're first or second. And Hal, if you can stay ahead of Jody or pass him later in the race, do it. Neither one of you is to hold back. And if you come to the end, and there are two guys ahead of you that you can't catch, we'll all understand if you fade at the end and capture fourth and fifth."
I said, "I'd be very uncomfortable if Jody gave up a bronze medal in those circumstances."
Tim said, "Hal, I understand how Jody feels. You guys are going to have to deal with that. Of course, the right way to deal with it is to make damn sure you capture gold and silver. I don't give a damn who gets the gold, but I hope it's the better of the two of you."
I looked at Tim, Charlie and Herb. They all nodded their heads. Jody said, "Do we have a deal, Hal?"
"We do," I said. Jody came over and kissed me, very emotionally. We had a deal.
I said, "Now we have to talk strategy."
Jody said, "I'm serious, you're the best pacer. We'll run this race just like our previous ones. I'll be a step or two behind you. You'll pick up the pace at mile 14."
I said, "And at mile 17 you will pass me. You will set your own pace. You will assume that I'm right behind you. If I can't pass everyone you pass, then our deal's off. But I think I can. Hell, Jody, I may be better than I think I am, and I might pass you. The same deal holds, it's up to you to keep up if you're behind me, and it's up to me to keep up if I'm behind you. We can't be looking back over our shoulders to see how the other is doing. Whoever is in the lead will not finish in third place, unless he happens to know that the other has fallen back."
Jody said, "You know, we have no idea whether I can actually run ahead of you."
Herb said, "You'll be running at least one, and maybe two, marathons this week. Test the waters."
Jody said, "Nope. We'll run as a pair this week, like we always have. I promise to give it my all next Sunday, and so will Hal. And if either one of us can stand up and talk at the finish line, we've betrayed this deal. We're going to run our guts out. Right, Hal?"
"Right. Oh, my God, what a race this is going to be. I just hope that we aren't talking about an all out effort to capture eighth and ninth places."
Charlie said, "That would be OK. You're going to be two Olympians giving it your best. That's all we ask of any Olympian. And I know that you're going to make the Gang proud."
Jody and I didn't talk about the conversation, or our "deal" ever again. We both knew the score, and we both knew we'd follow the rules. We didn't need to talk about it, and didn't want to. We both knew that above anything else we didn't want the race to approach the end with us in third and fourth position. But we also knew it was a real possibility.
The race came Sunday morning. It would start at 8:00 a.m. and finish beginning shortly after 10:00 a.m. in the main stadium. That would make it in prime time Saturday night television in the United States (not an accident). Not much else was scheduled for the final day, October 2. Boxing and volleyball finals were taking place elsewhere. One of the equestrian events would have finals that morning. It was enough to keep American television viewers entertained with live action. The Closing Ceremony would be shown live early Sunday morning in the U.S.
Jody and I got a good start, and kept right at my pace until mile 14. I picked up the pace then as we had agreed. As mile 17 approached Jody and I had seven runners ahead of us-our normal expectation. I worried whether Jody really would step up and pour on the juice at mile 17 as we'd agreed. As we passed 17 and headed on toward 18, I let myself go. We were going to run our all out best in this race, something that I'd never done before. I had misgivings about it, but Jody and I had a deal. I was in fifth place as we passed mile 19 and still Jody hadn't passed, but as we passed the 19 marker I could feel a runner coming up beside me. I prayed that it'd be Jody, and I soon knew that it was from the unique sound of his footsteps-a sound that I'd heard for miles and miles as we ran. His long legs gave a very distinctive sound to his footfalls. Then I saw him, tall, incredibly sexy (yes, I easily think about that as I run), and slowly pulling away from me. I was moving at my absolute limit, and Jody was pulling ahead. I wasn't surprised. I was joyous. In many ways Jody the runner was my creation-and there he was, running his heart out and looking like he might actually win the race. My job now was to keep up enough so that I could pass every runner that Jody passed. There were five ahead of us when Jody passed, but soon that was down to three; then two. We were in the dreaded third and fourth positions.
Ahead of us were the national champions of Italy and Kenya-fine runners who didn't look like they planned to give up their positions. Jody was pushing himself to the limit; I could tell. Certainly I was. Then Jody slipped into second place. The runner from Kenya was slowing ever so slightly and Jody had passed. Now it was up to me. My perception that the Kenyan was slowing was correct and I was able to get past him. Jody and I were second and third, with two miles to go. I had no idea whether we could hold out. I knew that neither one of us had ever run this fast a race before. There was no guarantee that we could hold out.
Then Jody did the impossible; he took the lead. A mile to go and he was going for the gold. I knew, absolutely knew, that there was no way I was going to get another silver, but I was gaining confidence that I could hold on for bronze.
Then we entered the stadium lap. The four leaders were all close together; my grip on third was tenuous, as my Kenyan rival was right at my heels. Jody, however, was pulling away from his rival. The final positions were clear by halfway through the stadium lap, barring a major mishaps. There were none and the four of us shot past the finish line within 20 seconds of each other. Jody broke the tape, headed to the sideline and went down on the grass; I wasn't clear whether he'd laid down or fallen. I dropped right next to him. I wasn't sure that I was ever going to get up again.
I have a confession to make. All these years in which I have "run my own race"? I was wrong. I lay there on the grass with Jody beside me, the world looking on-literally the world, as this was being broadcast live in much of the world and with the race over, the cameras were aimed at the winner, Jody, and I was right beside him. A couple of stupid reporters tried to ask questions, but neither of us could utter a word. I felt the wonderful peace, in spite of my physical wreckage, of knowing that I'd truly given it everything I had. I'd never done that before, not even in the race with Frank Shorter. It took Jody to bring me along, to make me rise to my best. As I realized that he looked over at me and smiled. I smiled back. We hugged and slowly got up and faced the crowd gathered around us. I looked at the times posted on the huge scoreboard: Jody had crossed the line at 2:08:52. I'd crossed at 2:09:09, the fastest marathon I'd ever run.
Jody held the gold medal and the Olympic record! We stood side by side on the podia, listened for the last time in the 1988 Olympics as the Star Spangled Banner was played, and fell into each other's arms as it ended. What an ending for the challenge that Jody'd thrown at me more than a year before one morning in my kitchen. Who could ever have guessed how it would've ended up?
Except for Herb, who was part of our coaching team, the Gang couldn't get to us in the stadium. We headed outside as quickly as we could get clear of the press and the crowds. We found the Gang, in a huge group, waiting patiently for us. Sue came to me and Tim came to Jody. We hugged and kissed. Then I heard Jody say, "I'm hungry. Let's eat."
This is Charlie again. The North Dakota/Gang scorecard for the 1988 Olympics is so special, so unbelievable, so spectacular, that I have to summarize it. Believe me, the newspapers, radio, and television throughout the state couldn't repeat it often enough. First, none of the six North Dakotans (Willie had been quickly adopted by North Dakota because of his connection to Tim, his grandparents, and the University where he'd practiced a lot) had entered into any Olympic competition and not gotten a medal. What an achievement.
Here it is: Willie got silver and bronze medals in diving. Bernie got two bronze in butterfly and a gold in the medley relay. Jimmy got a gold in archery and a team silver. Murray got a silver in wrestling. Jody got a gold and Hal a bronze in the marathon. Six athletes got a total of ten medals, three of them gold.
Sunday night after the closing ceremony Hal returned to Sue's bed. We invited Jody to sleep with us, and I know he was tempted. But he elected to spend the night with his parents, Franz and Anna. Murray was with Toppy. Bernie and Jimmy decided to spend the last night together in their Olympic Village room. At Bernie's suggestion they slept in the same bed together, naked as jaybirds, but chaste. Jimmy told me that later, adding, "I don't think Bernie had any idea how hard it was for me to keep my hands off him."
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